Mills County, Iowa

1881 Mills County History

      Somebody once wrote a, book, “The World on Wheels,” the title of which, though not historical, is very suggestive of the conditions of progress. Communication with the outside world was neither ready nor pleasant, in the days of the lumbering coach.

      Two lines of these coaches formerly ran through the county, one, the St. Joseph and Council Bluffs line, running by way of Sidney, Tabor, Glenwood, and thence to Council Bluffs, and the route of the Western Stage company, through from one county seat to another, and these lines formed the only mode of public conveyance from one point to another. The trips of the stages were originally made weekly, then semi-weekly, and finally daily, as the growing business warranted such an increase of facilities.

      The life of the traveler in those days was by no means a pleasant one. When steep hills must be ascended, or muddy bottoms crossed, the passenger—wearied as he was by the swaying and rough usage of hard driving—was expected to descend and mount the hill or cross the bottom on foot. Passengers then became often travel-stained, in a sense which now no longer obtains. But like all companies whose business was of a public nature, the Western Stage company was often censured for carelessness and wanton abuse of public good nature. One such censure contains the cause of the trouble that so often led to delayed and damaged mail matter in the days before the railroad. It is as follows: “The western stage company deserves the greatest credit for their untiring energy and perseverance in bringing every mail to this city, for the last three weeks in a wet and pulp-like state, perfectly saturated with water and wholly unreadable. But for the mail brought from the south on Friday morning last, they deserve more than a high eulogy. There was one entire sack of near two bushels, which was not only saturated with water, but completely covered with mud, and every direction entirely obliterated. That sack full must prove a total loss, as it can never be forwarded to its destination. Our postmaster has on many occasions recently when the bundles were broken open, taken the pains and trouble to re-envelope them again and forward. For this he should receive the thanks of a generous people.

      We are sickened at the sight of every mall that arrives. When the agent is asked why this repeated occurrence of destroying the mail, they offer the same silly and stereotyped reply, that “the stage upset in the creek !“ This western stage company have proved an intolerable nuisance, and we should think it high time that the department at Washington were taking notice of these faults and the destroying of the mail matter.—Bug1e, 1858.

      But the days of the lumbering coach, of delayed mails and freights, of toilsome travel have long since ceased to be in this county. The iron horse puffs its way over hill and through valley, from the extreme north of the county to its southern limits, on three distinct lines of road, and across the county from west to east by one of the greatest lines of the west. These lines afford ample means of communication, and ready facilities by which to carry the produce of the county to the great marts of the land.

      The first railroad scheme to engage the attention of the county, and which became the subject of a general ballot was the Council Bluffs & St. Joseph railroad. The company working under this style was organized May 18, 1858. The articles of incorporation were signed by Enos Lowe, A. D. Richardson, S. L. Nuckolls, A. A. Bradford, Ira D. Blanchard, William Street, Frank Street, L. Nuckolls, Addison Cochran, James A. Jackson, Samuel S. Bayliss, Samuel S. Curtiss, James D. Test, George Doughty, George Parks, Thomas H. Benton, Jr., Hadley D. Johnson, Martin W. Riden, Horace Everett, and Benjamin Rector. The capital stock of the company was to be one million dollars. The affairs of the company were to be managed by a board of nine directors, to be chosen by the stockholders, from among their own number, on the second Monday in July and annually thereafter. The directors were to elect from their own number a president, vice—president, and treasurer, each to serve one year. The directors were also to elect a secretary annually, and to provide for the appointment and employment of such other officers, attorneys, agents, engineers, clerks, and laborers, as might be needed to manage the affairs of the corporation, and build and operate a railroad. The object of the company was to build and operate a railroad from Council B1uffs to some point on the Missouri state line, there to connect with a railroad from St. Joseph, Missouri. The articles of incorporation were filed for record in the recorder’s office in the county of Pottawattamie, May l8, 1858, and filed in the office of the secretary of state, July 2, 1858.

      The company was organized under the forty—third chapter of the Code of Iowa, entitled "Corporations for Pecuniary Benefit,” approved February 5, 1851, and was to continue fifty years. The principal place of business was Council Bluffs, in the county of Pottawattamie. May 19, 1858, a convention was held at Council Bluffs to further the objects of the company. At this convention four counties in Iowa, two in Nebraska and three in Missouri were represented by delegates. The first hoard of directors was composed of Enos Lowe, S. F. Nuckolls, B. F. Rector, J. W. Coolidge, L. Nuckolls, L. W. Babbitt, James A. Jackson, J. D. Test, and Addison Cochran. The board organized by the election of the following officers: President, S. F. Nuckolls; Vice-President, Horace Everett; Treasurer, L. Nuckolls; Secretary, Samuel S. Curtiss. H. C. Nutt was appointed chief engineer, He made preliminary survey from Council Bluffs south to the state line, and made his first report to the first annual meeting of the stockholders, held at Council Bluffs, July 12, 1858. The chief engineers successively appointed by the company, prior to 1865, were H. C. Nutt, Col. Peabody and Edward Everett. November 6, 1859, the first ground was broken for the railroad, at Council Bluffs, near the present depot of the K. C., St. Jo. & C. B. railroad. On the following evening a railroad meeting was held in Concert Hall, in Council Bluffs, at which speeches were made by Col. Peabody, engineer of the road, and the territorial governor of Nebraska, Samuel W. Black. The road was put under contract from Council Bluffs to the Iowa state line. Considerable grading was done in Pottawattamie and Mills counties, and several thousand ties delivered.

      The contractors were Charles Hendrie and John Jones, of Council Bluffs. J. S. Andrews was general agent of the company for obtaining aid, managing real estate and right of way, soliciting stock subscriptions, and supervising the work. The war, commencing in April, 1861, soon stopped operations on this railroad, and during its continuance no progress was made. The organization of the company was carefully maintained. On July 13, 1861, the following persons were elected directors: James A. Jackson, J. T. Baldwin, Horace Everett, J.P. Casady, Samuel Knepper,

      Edward Gillilland, W. C. Sipple, S. F. Nukolls and R. L. Douglass. The same directors were annually elected during the continuance of the war, with but few changes.

      By virtue of an ordinance of the city council of the city of Council Bluffs, passed and approved November 14, 1859, a city election was held December 8, 1859, to decide on the proposition for the city to subscribe $25,000 to the capital stock of the Council Bluffs & St. Joseph railroad company. The subscription was carried by a vote of 243 to 15. City bonds were to be issued, as the work on the road progressed, and given to the company in payment of the stock. The bonds were to bear ten per cent interest, and the principal was to be paid in ten years from date. Seven thousand dollars of these bonds were issued during the progress of the work on the road under the Hendric-Jones contract, and eighteen thousand dollars of the bonds were issued in 1866, and in consideration of said bonds, stock in the company, amounting in the aggregate to $25,000, was issued to the city at different times. These bonds have all been paid off, principal and interest.

      Pursuant to a proclamation of J. P. Casady, county judge of Pottawattamie county, dated January 10, 1860, a contract, dated January 9, 1860, between the county and the Council Bluffs and St. Joseph railroad company, for the transfer to the company of the swamp lands of the county and the proceeds thereof, under the provisions of chapter 132 of the acts of the general assembly of Iowa, passed at the session of 1857—58, was submitted to a vote of the people of the county at a special election held February 15, 1860. The election went in favor of the contract and transfer by a vote of 373 to 133. The contract was signed by J. P. Casady, county judge, and S. F. Nuckolls, president of the railroad company.

      The transfer was to be made subject to the provisions of the swamp-land act of congress, approved September 28, 1850, and the state and county were released from liabilities for draining and reclaiming said lands. April 30, 1860, J. P. Casady, county judge, executed a deed conveying, to the railroad company 8,032.37 acres of land, valued at $1.25 per acre. There was also assigned to the company the claim of the county against the United States for indemnity lands and money due on account of swamp lands sold by the government; and by virtue of these assignments the company received in cash $10,000 and 4,451.75 acres of land in Kossuth county, Iowa, and 400 acres of land in Pottawattamie county, on which this county held judgment, were also all given to the company. This real estate and money were valued at $40,000, and certificates of stock in the company to that amount were issued to the county. May 7, 1860, John Doniphan and B. M. Hughes, of St. Joseph, conveyed to the company ten acres of land in a square form in the northwest corner of e 1/2 of nw. 1/4 of 1—74—44, for depot purposes at Council Bluffs, on condition that the company should maintain a freight and passenger depot on the, premises for ten years after the completion of the road. The conditions were accepted by L. W. Babbitt, vice-president of the company. April 11, 1860, the Pacific City land company conveyed to the railroad company 300 lots in Pacific City on condition that there be no other depot for ten years in Mills county than Pacific City, and also leased to the railroad company 220 acres of timber land, which was sold to Charles Heddire, contractor, for $1,320. The Pacific City lots did not turn out to be of much value, and the station has been abandoned for business reasons.

      A similar proposition was submitted to the voters of Fremont county, January 30, 1860, but was defeated by a vote of 492 to 41.

      At the annual meeting of the stockholders in July, 1865, the following persons were elected directors: R. L. Douglass, L. W. Babbitt, J. P. Casady, Horace Everett, S. S. Bayliss, James A. Jackson, A. H. Harris, Edward Gilliland and J. W. Coolidge.

      R.L. Douglass was elected president; J.P. Casady, vice-president; Horace Everett, treasurer; and Samuel Jacobs, secretary.

      September 23, 1865, the company entered into a contract with Willis Phelphs, of Springfield, Massachusetts, for the completion of the road in two years—the Hendric-Jones contract being surrendered and canceled. By this contract the road passed into the hands of Mr. Phelphs and his associates. All the property, real and personal, of the company all its capital stock, except about twenty shares and excepting the Council Bluffs city and Pottawattamie county stock, were to be surrendered to him.

      During the winter of 1855-6 the road was re-surveyed re-located by a new chief engineer, E.G. Ferris, who remained until the completion of the work. Ties and other material were also obtained. March 1, 1856, the first mortgage was put upon the road, being signed by Robert L. Douglass, president; and executed to Horatio N. Case and Ephraim W. Bond, of, Springfield, Massachusetts, as trustees, to secure the payment of $500,000 in bonds to be issued in sums of $1,000 each, bearing interest at the rate of seven per cent per annum, payable semi-annually—July 1st and January 1St of each year—the principal payable January 1st, 1880. Release was filed February 25, 1880. Previous to this mortgage there was no encumbrance upon the road.

      The road was completed from Council Bluffs to the north line of Fremont county by January 1, 1867, and on January 15, 1867, trains commenced running regularly between Council Bluffs and Bartlett. Part of the iron for this portion of the road was brought up the Missouri river in steamboats from St. Joseph and landed at Stillary’s in Mills county, a town long since washed into the river. Later in the fall the iron was brought to Woodbine, in Harrison county, then the terminus of the Chicago & Northwestern railroad, and taken to Council Bluffs in wagons. In 1866 and 1867 the floods in the Missouri river delayed the progress of the work, and in 1867 the trains were stopped seventy days on account of damages by the floods.

      In 1867 Pottawattamie county and the city of Council Bluffs surrendered their stock to the company in consideration of the completion of the road to the Fremont county line, and the agreement of Mr. Willis Phelphs to complete and open the road to the Missouri state line by January 1, 1868. July 1, 1867, a second mortgage on the road was executed to George B. Phelphs, as trustee, of $150,000, to be issued in bonds of three denominations; 130 bonds of $1,000 each; 30 bonds of $500 each; and 50 bonds of $100 each. They were all to bear interest at ten per cent, payable semi-annually—July 1 and January 1 of each year—principal payable July 1, 1872.

      The annual meeting of the stockholders was held at Council Bluffs July 8, 1867, and adjourned to meet at Council Bluffs, July 23, 1867, at which, besides the election of directors, the following resolution was offered and passed: “Resolved, That the second clause of article (10) ten of the original articles of incorporation of the Council Bluffs and St. Joseph railroad company be and the same is hereby rescinded.” The clause rescinded made Council Bluffs the headquarters of the company. It was ordered that the foregoing change in the articles of incorporation be published and recorded as prescribed in chapter 52, of the revision of 1860.

      The road was completed to the Missouri state line, December 30, 1867. The last annual meeting of the stockholders was held at Council Bluffs July 13, 1868.

      In the summer of 1866 a contract was made between the company and the county of Otoe, in the then territory of Nebraska, that provided that the railroad should be built on the line then staked out, not to be further than a mile and a quarter from the bank of the Missouri river, opposite the foot of Main street in Nebraska City. Within which stated distance the company was to build and maintain a freight and passenger depot for all time to come, unless the river should wash the railroad so as to render it necessary to remove to another convenient point. In consideration of this agreement the county agreed to issue, and did issue, and deliver to the railroad company county bonds, to the amount of forty thousand dollars, bearing ten per cent. interest, payable semi-annually; the principal to be paid in twenty years. These bonds were issued and disposed of by the company before the organization of the Kansas City, St. Joe & Council Bluffs Railroad Company. It is understood, however, that the interest on the bonds was paid for some years; and that afterwards the county resisted and still resists the payment of either interest or principal.

      When the Council Bluffs and St. Joseph railroad was commenced in 1859, it was expected that it would meet at the state line, the Platte country railroad from St. Joseph, but that and some other companies were merged in the St. Joseph and Council Bluffs railroad company, which was organized in the fall of 1866, and completed to the Junction at the Iowa state line, a mile south of Hamburg in August, 1868, when trains commenced running regularly through from St. Joseph to Council Bluffs. In the fall of 1868 a majority of the stock of the Council Bluffs and St. Joseph railroad company was purchased by Nathaniel Thayer, as trustee, and in the month of November the road passed in the charge of the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad company. It was consolidated with that company April 7, 1869, taking its title. The consolidation was approved by Nathaniel Thayer, representing 9056 shares, and Willis Phelphs owning 452 shares, which constituted a majority of the entire number issued, which was 10,500.

      A second change was made May 19, 1870, and a new consolidation formed with the Missouri Valley railroad company, the united companies taking the title of the Kansas city, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs railroad company. Under this name the road was for some time operated. The gross earnings of the road for 1878 were $1,499,029.80—an average earning per mile of $6,000.20. In the same year the officers of the company were as follows: President, Nathaniel Thayer, Boston, Mass.; Secretary, Charles Merriam, Boston, Mass.; Treasurer, Charles Merriam, Boston, Mass.; Assistant Treasurer, J. S. Ford, St. Joseph, Mo.; General Manager, Geo. H. Nettleton, Kansas City, Mo.; General Superintendent, J. F. Barnard, St. Joseph, Mo.; General Passenger Agent, A. C. Dawes, St. Joseph, Mo.; General Freight Agent, George Olds, St. Joseph, Mo.; Attorneys, W. F. Sapp and partners, Council Bluffs, Iowa.

      The road is now under the control of the C. B. & Q., and its business is daily greatly increasing.

      The next proposition entertained by the county was in the year 1868, when Glenwood township took the initiative. At the meeting of the township trustees for September 24,of that year, a petition signed by one hundred and twenty voters was presented “asking said board to call an election and submit the question, ‘Shall Glenwood township aid in the construction of the Burlington and Missouri River railroad as provided by chapter 48 of the acts of the 12th General Assembly of the state of Iowa?’” The petition was granted and the election called. The balloting was had at the old brick school house on October 6, 1868. The election resulted in the casting of one hundred and sixty-five votes for, and fifty against taxation. This result was duly “reported to the clerk of the board of supervisors” on the next day, the seventh of the month. The project had been conceived before this time, for on the minutes of the board of supervisors for October, 1867, appeared the following:

      Resolved, That all the taxes now levied and standing against the clear list of lands in Mills county, Iowa, belonging to the Burlington and Missouri river railroad company, be and the same is hereby remitted, provided, that said company shall construct their road when extended west on the line of their road where it was definitely fixed and located by the board of directors in March, 1857.

      It may be proper before proceeding further to note the incorporation of this company. The act of incorporation was commenced by a preliminary meeting of some of the principal citizen’s of Burlington, Iowa, January 15, 1852; but it did not complete its organization nor become an efficient company until November 22, 1853. By March 22, 1854, it had completed seventy-five miles of its road, from Burlington to Ottumwa. Meanwhile the various congressional and state acts had been passed, relative to the swamp and other lands. The Burlington and Missouri River railroad, was one of the roads specified in the several acts, and it accepted the trust imposed by the state, July 25, 1856. By this grant the company received from the state to aid in the construction of its road 287,099 acres of land. This was subsequently increased to the aggregate of 390,072.23 of which there are, in Mills county, 40,613 acres. For a history of the litigation between this company, and its successor, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and the county, reference may be had to the swamp land troubles.

      In 1868 another railroad scheme was projected through the county, and which was made the object of action on the part of the board of supervisors. It was the Chillicothe and Omaha railroad, which however was never completed. The action referred to bears date of January, 1868, and is as follows:

      Resolved, That the sum of five hundred dollars or so much thereof as shall be required therefor, be and the same is hereby appropriated for the survey and fina1 location of the Chillicothe and Omaha railroad centrally through the county of Mills, making the county seat a point therein, and that as soon as the president of said company shall certify to the clerk of this board, and accompany said certificate with, a plat of said survey and location, to be filed in his office, stating the amount that has been used for that purpose, the same not to exceed $500, shall thereupon be paid to him.

      Soon after the coming of the Burlington and Missouri called for renewed action, and in the matter of taxes on the lands of that company, received in trust from the state to aid in its construction, the following action was had, bearing date of December, 1868:

      Resolved, That in consideration and on condition that the Burlington and Missouri River railroad company shall locate the line of their road and build the same through Mills county, Iowa, via Glenwood, in said county, and also locate and build a depot at said town of Glenwood, it is hereby resolved by the board of supervisors of Mills county, in the state of Iowa, that the taxes that may have been or shall be levied on the lands belonging to said railroad company in said county, shall be and the same is hereby remitted, provided that this resolution shall not be so construed as to remit said taxes for more than two years to come, including also the taxes which have been and are now levied on and standing against said lands, it being the true intent and meaning of this resolution.

      This action of the supervisors was destined to become one fraught with most important results, for in the trial of the causes which grew out of the swamp land grant between the county and the railroad company, it was used as a most potent argument in relation to the attitude of the county to the railroad when making the compromise relative to the suits pending in the supreme court of the United States. The road was completed, and the first train passed through Glenwood in the year 1869. The same company, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, control the Nebraska City & Sidney railroad, built in 1878, and the K. C., St. Joe & C., B. railroad, a history of which precedes. Besides the branches above indicated as being under the control of this great corporation, there is the Hastings & Avoca branch, which runs from the first named place to Carson City.

      Another road has been recently completed through the county, the Wabash, or more commonly known as the Council Bluffs, Pacific & St. Louis railroad; this road pursues a very sinuous course through the county and is destined at no distant day to command no second place among its public institutions.

      Thus the advantages of excellent railroad facilities are offered to the residents of this county at their best. To arrest or to seriously impair their usefulness would be detrimental to the highest interests of the people. The days of delayed mails and express could no longer he brooked, and should they at once cease to be, the community would be remanded to comparative barbarism. The rushing of the train keeps pace with the increase of business, and the latter is commensurate with the material wealth and resources of the county, a wealth which becomes annually greater by means of ready access to important business centers.

      The attention of the reader is invited to the following statistics, relative to the railways of the county:

Transcribed by Roseanna Zehner and Jennifer Miller; Copyright 2005 All Rights Reserved

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